Keeping employees motivated is a challenge in every industry.
In the call center, it can be even more difficult due to the repetitive nature of the job (answering an endless stream of phone calls) and the metrics-based approach used in performance tracking.
Picture it: You are the fearless leader of a call center team. Much like the call centers of old, your agents are grappling with:
- Surges in call volume (both expected and unexpected)
- Evolving technologies;
- Increasingly complex customer cases, and
- The latent human desire to be appreciated, acknowledged, and active in the work environment.
During crisis moments where we see spikes in call volume and demanding customers, agents become taxed and frustrated if they feel the infrastructure doesn’t support them or there is no incentive to stick around. Keeping agents engaged is one thing, but keeping them as employees is another.
As a call center manager, the game pieces you must manoeuvre to keep your center, agents, and the overall business infrastructure at the top of their game are vast and varied. And like any good puzzle, managing a call center has a unique set of ever-evolving challenges, attrition being high on the list.
Only a few years ago, call center turnover was as high as 33% and it continues to be an issue. A 2020 Gallup poll showed that just 36% of employees reported feeling engaged with their job. While the source of this startling rate is debatable, call center managers can certainly do their part to strategize how to keep call center agents on the ball.
One strategy employed by many companies is “gamification.” This involves guiding, reinforcing and increasing high-value activity by capturing performance data and using that data to motivate employees. Companies like Spotify and LivingSocial have reportedly replaced traditional reviews with mobile and gamified versions and reported 90% of employees are voluntarily participating in the programs.
Gamification builds on the desire most people have for feedback, recognition, and achievement in a peer group. Add to this the potential for rewards (for goal achievement). It’s easy to see why this concept has become so popular, and a big step up from the old days when companies would simply pick an “employee of the month”.
What is Call Center Gamification?
A pat on the back and a paycheque every once in a while will only go so far, so adding game elements into your call-center infrastructure is a possible way of keeping your call center team motivated and in the game.
Gamification is the introduction of interactive, game-like principles and elements into different contexts. Its usefulness knows no bounds: By adding playful elements such as competition, rewards, and recognition into your call center, it can facilitate, recognize and reward learning, creativity, and social and personal growth.
Gamification captures agent performance data and uses that data to motivate them with rewards and points. Adding games, scores, virtual badges, and other game-like elements to everyday work processes can make the job more fun.
However, with any trend (or fad) there will be proponents and detractors. Some proponents insist that every job will eventually be gamified, while detractors fear that it’s just another management fad or, worse, a new form of corporate control.
Surprising Statistics About Gamification
- By 2016, gamification will be an essential element for brands to drive customer marketing and loyalty.
- 70% of business transformation efforts fail due to a lack of employee engagement.
- According to Gartner, by the end of 2015, more than 40% of the top companies will be using gamification to transform their business operations.
- Only 3% of people remain unproductive during gamified training.
- The gamification industry is expected to grow to over $2 billion in the U.S. by 2015, according to M2 Research.
- According to a report by Aberdeen Research, organizations that deployed gamification have seen their annual revenue grow nearly twice as fast as their peers.
- 89% of survey respondents claim that if a task is gamified, they feel eager to complete it and are in a competitive mood.
- According to Pew Research Center, 53% of people surveyed said that by 2020, the use of gamification will be widespread, while 42% predicted that, by 2020, gamification will not evolve to be a larger trend except in specific realms.
- By 2025, the global gamification sales revenue is estimated to reach $32 billion.
- 70% of the top global enterprises already use gamification in some way.
Benefits of Gamification in the Contact Center
1. It shortens ramp-up times for new employees.
Gamification improves the process for providing real-time feedback at every step of the training process, allowing trainees to advance more quickly. Accordingly, onboarding time can be significantly reduced. That’s a big plus for an industry that experiences a lot of employee churn.
2. It allows employees to know how they’re doing.
The approach of gamification provides real-time feedback for employees- how they’re performing in relation to co-workers, and how well they’re achieving their own goals. Employees will always know where they stand.
3. It gives managers a better way to incentivize employees.
When employees are aware of their own performance, they can be more readily encouraged to meet new targets. In this way, managers can use more “carrot” and less “stick” in motivating their staff.
4. Incentives can be automated, and customized.
Gamification automates the process of setting goals and running contests for employees, offering this functionality in a broader platform that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of different teams and individuals.
5. It encourages sharing and mentoring.
By sharing performance data among a community of peers, a collaborative approach emerges in which employees share knowledge and best practices, and work together to solve mutual challenges. The net result is a positive increase in the knowledge level of all employees, something that’s an enormous benefit to any call center!
The Downsides of Call Center Gamification
As with any technology or process, there are just as many cons to gamification in the contact center.
1. Unhealthy competition
Gamification tools like leaderboards can negatively impact company culture. They highlight weaker employees just as much as they do your best agents. It is critical to set clear guidelines for how management takes action on gamification results to avoid demotivating your employees. Rewarding and training should be key, not reprimanding and punishing lower performers.
2. Unnecessary gamification
Once the power of gamification has been proven out, there is often a temptation to apply it everywhere — even in situations where it is not appropriate or ineffective.
The reasons behind gamifying a process or task should be carefully considered and tied back to the overall business objectives. Gamification is not best used for tedious tasks that employees already struggle to complete, as this can have a negative impact.
Be strategic in your application of gamification techniques and avoid the temptation to gamify everything just to get it done. If a task is so boring or challenging that employees don’t want to do it, address that issue through other ways, not through incentives or leaderboards.
3. Forced play isn’t play
Fun and games are voluntary by nature. Some people have pointed out that forcing employees to play games is still work, when it’s done around work and in a workplace. When companies demand that employees play their ‘games,’ they very quickly fail.
To avoid this, ensure that any gamification is voluntary and that employees can opt-out without punishment.
4. Games are played to death
Eventually, all games lose their fun. The longer a game runs, the less engaging and the less fun it will be for your support agents. No matter how exciting and rewarding a game is when it starts, the novelty and allure wear thin after a few weeks at most.
Gamification is best used for short-term or ‘sprints’ to boost productivity over a short space of time, or for periodic, seasonal promotions. Giving a few months ‘breathing’ room between games can revitalize your employees and make the games something to look forward to instead of dread.
Your call center should consider gamification if:
- Your agents are having trouble adapting to a new technological solution in your call center and they need to study up (and fast);
- Your agents are burning out and employee turnover is at a historic high;
- Your agents seem lethargic, disengaged, and are calling in sick more than usual;
- Customer complaints about poorly-trained or unresponsive agents are at a historic high;
- You want a clearer understanding or microscopic snapshot of how engaged your call agents actually are; and/or
- You have new employees who need to meet the team and train your company and their roles, and fast!
Gamification can potentially:
- Increase your own productivity;
- Improve upon a flawed or outdated training model;
- Encourage more well-trained, educated agents (something both your agents and customers will appreciate);
- Improve customer service and experience via interactions with more well-trained, pleasant agents;
- Motivate your team to set high goals (or even vie for promotion) via healthy competitions;
- Encourage creativity;
- Provide a way of assessing your call center agents’ performance; and
- Vastly enhance the culture of your call center and improve the overall perception of your business.
And always remember:
As a call center manager, anything that benefits customers, agents, and the overall infrastructure benefits you.